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Conflicts of Colonialism


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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Mademba and the foundations of the bargains of collaboration, 1852–1888; 2. Conquest and construction of indirect rule in the French Soudan, 1886–1891; 3. 'A world of deception and defection': Misrule, rebellion, and indirect rule revisted, 1891–1895; 4. 'A curious and very engaging mixture of European and Native customs': Republican traditions and African kings, 1895–1899; 5. The coming storm, 1898–1899; 6. Rule of law and the bargains of collaboration: Mademba on trial, 1899–1900; 7: 'An unexpected and precious collaborator': Mademba's redemption, 1900–1906; 8: Remaking Mademba, 1906–1931; Conclusion.

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Using the life of an African clerk who became a king under French colonial rule, this book illuminates conflicts over colonial policies and the application of competing rules of law.

About the Author

Richard L. Roberts is the Frances and Charles Field Professor of History at Stanford University, where he has served as the Director for the Center for African Studies for over two decades. One of the leading social historians of French West Africa, his research has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has published numerous books and edited collections including Marriage by Force? Contestation over Consent and Coercion in Africa (2016), Litigants and Households: African Disputes and Colonial Courts in the French Soudan, 1895-1912 (2005) and Two Worlds of Cotton: Colonialism and the Regional Economy in the French Soudan, 1800-1946 (1996).


'Richard Roberts paints a vivid and revealing portrait of an African leader who was called at various times an imperial intermediary or a collaborator of the colonizing regime. He brings out brilliantly the uncertainties and violence of the early years of colonial rule in West Africa.' Frederick Cooper, NYU, New York

'This is a wonderfully rich and nuanced history of the early phase of French colonial rule in West Africa through the lens of the life of Mademba Sèye, who started his career as a telegrapher and later acquired, backed by his French supporters, the rank of 'King'. Richard Roberts offers highly illuminating insights into the structures of power during the first decades of colonialism and how diverse actors attempted to navigate the challenges of this period.' Andreas Eckert, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

'Mobilizing unparalleled knowledge of the field and decades of careful research, Richard Roberts uses Faama Mademba Sèye's remarkable rise from telegraph clerk to African 'king' to explore the complex dynamics of French colonialism in the Soudan, illuminating the realms of governance, law, economic exploitation, and more.' Elizabeth A. Foster, Tufts University

'An astonishing book. Richard L. Roberts is confirmed as a major master, not just of African history but also of the historian's craft in bringing to life what generations of historians always dreamt of, a 'king's' life scattered among thousands of archival documents. A masterpiece.' Alessandro Stanziani, EHESS

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